DVD Reviews: Grindhouse - Films With No Redeeming Value
DVD Reviews: Grindhouse Flicks
You decide which featured pick it was.
Back in the day, we called these films “psychotronic,” after Michael Weldon’s immortal pub. Those gurus of cool Quentin Tarantino and Roberto Rodriguez have a new umbrella name to fit them all under: Grindhouse. Whatever you call’em, this column is devoted to films sure to fit the aforementioned said auteur’s three truly defining word: “No,” “Redeeming” and “Value.”
So grab a bag of popcorn. Throw black Ju Ju Bees at the significant other, mooching pal or house pet. Here comes a big mess of blood, booty and brain numbing satisfaction.
HELL RIDE (Dimension Extreme)
Call this the return of The Savage Seven…minus four, of course.
Three bikers--Michael Madsen, Eric Balfour and director/writer Larry Bishop--reteam to avenge the death of a former lover/mother. There’s also a mystery box, Keith Carradine and Dennis Hopper to keep things interesting. It most certainly hits the three most important points of a grindhouse feature: tons of sex, creative violence and a timeless lack of social relevance, right on the head. Add Mr. Tarantino’s production credits and there is no reason in the world why this DVD shouldn’t be riding high in your collection. I want a copy of the poster for my room.
It’s worth it just to hear Quentin T. murder the western accent while the rest of the Takashi Miike-directed cast mangle English. That’s just the start of these hardcore jollies though.
In classic Miike manner, this latest incarnation of the Yojimbo/Fistful of Dollars mythos is packed full of creative violence. It’ll keep your eyes glued to the screen time and time again. It also includes sterling performances from Kaori Momoi (Bloody Benten), Yoshino Kimura (The Temptress) and Hideaki Ito (The—yep, nameless--Stranger). Heck, even Tarantino isn’t too shabby as Ringo, a master gunman.
Rack this one up with the likes of Ichi The Killer, MPD and Dead Or Alive. When Miike decides to mix his genres up, the results are truly tasty. Somewhere up in trash movie heaven, Sam Peckinpah is looking down and blessing this production.
BEER FOR MY HORSES (Lionsgate)
When country star Toby Keith teams up with rock’n roll wild man Ted Nugent, you wind up with one of the best redneck justice flicks either side of the Mason-Dixon border. Keith plays Deputy Joe Bill “Rack” Rackin. He and his best bud defy their Sheriff (Tom Skerritt) and go after a drug-dealing, manure-stealing, greasy Latino something-or-other terrorist, with pretty satisfying results. It’s oh so politically incorrect.
If you don’t like this one, you should be forced to watch a perpetual loop of Smokey & The Bandit. It makes Walking Tall look like high art. It makes you forget the Dixie Chicks. It makes me want to go out and buy a Ford pick-up in the worst way…and don’t forget the gun rack.
BIKINI BLOOD BATH CARWASH (Brightly)
The title says it all, doesn’t it?
While the violence ain’t much to speak of, and you shouldn’t expect much in the way of acting, the loads of bodacious babes compensate mightily. Don’t invite the girlfriend/significant other, she and most other sensible females just won’t understand.
The second-to-last film the legendary Bela Lugosi ever completed, this Ed Wood-directed monsterpiece has the former Dracula in one of his other major stock roles, i.e. mad scientist. Of course, he’s using “the power of the atom” to create a new kind of super soldier, has the most fake octopus to wrestle with, and the immortal Tor Johnson to complete this glorious bit of Z-movie madness.
If that isn’t enough, the extra content includes a bit with the aforementioned Johnson in The Shirley Temple Theater. That you have to see to believe. This film is so cheesy it should be served with Saltines. That’s the point. This is a golden turkey at its best.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
(Off Color Films)
Why collect these latest two incarnations of these Midnight Matinee masterworks, especially when so many others are available at the dollar shop?
Why both come with alternative commentary tracks by former MST3K riffer Mike Nelson. He’s in fine form, too. He mixes fact and fancy with ease and a sense of humor so cold and cutting it burns like dry ice. As any horror fan knows, both films deliver their share of chills, too.
They also come with alternate color versions. Still, real fans stick to the pristine black and white versions (also included).
CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA (Legend)
When it comes to 50s cheezy monster movies, even the immortal Ed Wood couldn’t match the team of Roger Corman and Charles Griffith. Before this over-the-top spy/monster spoof, Corman and Griffith had already sent heads spinning with such trash treats like the original Little Shop of Horror and Bucket of Blood.
Shot in five days, this film stars Robert Towne (who would write Chinatown and The Last Detail) as a superspy out to crack infamous mobster Renzo Capetto aka Capo Rosetto aka Ratto Pazetti, aka Zeppo Staccato, aka Shirley Lamour (Anthony Carbone). Capetto is out to grift Cuban ex-patriots departing their mother country with “25% of the national treasury.” So he concocts a monster. Then the real one shows up.
The text is so purple, Mike Hammer would choke. The monster is unforgettably portrayed by Corman’s boom man in a wet suit, moss and a pile of Brillo pads. The characters running through the movie are so off-the-wall they make Seymour Krelboin look Oscar-worthy. What more do you need? A chick in a one piece bathing suit with curves so hot they sizzle? You get one of them too. A true must-have.
DARKER THAN BLACK Vol. 1 (FUNimation)
From the production team that gave us Cowboy Bebop, comes this latest bit of sci-fi noir. “The Black Reaper” is a “contractor,” a human with special powers. His job is to take out other contractors. With each two-part mini-arc, the series gets darker and darker while the body count gets higher and higher. Yeah, sometimes it gets a little prosy, but so far so good. The Yoko Kano soundtrack deserves to be played loud, real loud.
HANK & MIKE (Magnet)
Based on an old Comedy Channel routine, one never knew that two guys in pink bunny suits could be so foul and funny at the same time. For the record, Hank and Mike are professional Easter bunnies. One gives Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa a real run for the money as far as scraping the barrel’s concerned. The other is so saintly he’d make martyr of the year. Yet when an overly ambitious exec with serious issues of his own succeeds to get them laid off from their job delivering Easter eggs, you’ll end up as twisted as an Easter basket over their gross out humor. A future cult classic that should be served when you’re properly scrambled.
RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP (Magnet)
What the original 1983 Z-grade slasher it lacked in budget it made up in gross executions, seriously bad acting and incredible unintentional humor. Like the true undead, a sequel has finally been unearthed. Guess what? While it may not match the first film, and how many horror slashers ever do, it’s not that bad an effort either. Before it’s over, you’ll have one actor’s face dropped into a deep fryer, a second emasculated unintentionally emasculated by his girl friend (while her face is simultaneously ripped apart by barbed wire) and George Wendt’s head trapped in a cage with a pack of angry rats. The gross-out capabilities of this one are held back a bit, but the good/bad intentions are clear enough.
It was 25 years in the making, but this latest edition of Sleepaway Campis worth the wait.
STOMP! SHOUT! SCREAM!
From the wonderful sick mind who helps gives us Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Jay Edwards, comes this paeon to Corman films of the mid-60s. A small southeastern island resort town is terrorized by the legendary Everglades skunk ape. Along the way you’ll get your fill of cracker barrel cops, a lead actor who plays it so straight you wonder if either the best or worst actors in existence, and some seriously solid all-girl garage rock. Mini skirts, go go boots and a guy in a gorilla suit…Who needs more?
To obtain this truly independent release, check out the URL: www.shoutstompscream.com. Check out the truly groovy garage rock CD with tracks from the Fleshtones, Catfight! and Johnny Knox, too.
THUNDERBOLT FIST (Image)
It wouldn’t be properly trashy without some Shaw Brothers contribution, now would it? A hybrid of Fist of Fury with King Boxer, it centers around a small Chinese town overrun by some of the most poorly costumed Japanese invaders ever seen. Some even have buck teeth. After the local martial arts master is brutally murdered, his son must find pop’s secret manual and defeat the nefarious cheating bad guys in the fight ring, even if they crushed one arm beyond repair.
The problem is it takes this Hong Kong hooey forever to do some serious bone breaking and skull smashing. Definitely not the greatest. Skip to the last 20 minutes and you’ll do fine.
Produced by Michael Madsen (as opposed to being one of the 20 he only acted in this year), this cop film features Darryl Hannah, Mark Boone Jr., Nicholas Lea and a number of other modern noir staples.
Built around a drug bust gone bad, the film tries to do Sin City without the glorious special effects. It hold up pretty well until near the end, when the real mastermind is revealed. Until then, lots of blood, bullets and actual decent narrative by Madsen. It could have been a contender. Stick to Hell Ride.
YO-YO SEXY GIRL COP (Cinema Epoch)
This little bit of J-trash pits a young undercover cop whose mom is doing time for crack addiction. She must bust a high school prostitution ring armed only with her steel plated Duncan and some see-through panties. Naturally, before she’s done, her yo-yo string will reach all the way to the Prime Minister, but that isn’t surprising.
What is shocking is even with the softcore nudity, touches of ultra violence and attempts at off-the-cheek humor, this film can still bore you to death faster than a fresh plate of fugu. There’s certainly a lot better out there.
Next Column: We look over a pile of Christmas releases…from Shrek The Halls and Rankin-Bass to Steve Colbert and Santa Claus v Mars for kicks. Talk about spreading some holiday cheer, eh?